J.A. Scheibe: Passion Cantata

Johann Adolph Scheibe (1708−1776), who lived in Denmark for more than 35 years, composed a vast amount of music of which most unfortunately has been lost − presumably due to the devastating fire in 1796 which engulfed the royal castle and the music collection of the Royal Chapel. In addition, it appears that most of his private library, including his collection of music manuscripts, was auctioned and sold to music collectors following his death 1776. Today, only a small number of works have survived scattered throughout European libraries including The Royal Library, Copenhagen. 

Many of Scheibe’s cantatas were specifically composed for the celebration of Lent and performed by the Musical Society of Copenhagen in the house of the Brewers’ Guild; they were among his most popular works. None of them, however, are available in a modern, critical edition and have very seldom been performed since the end of the eighteenth century. From a music historical point of view, they are an important testimony of musical life in Copenhagen and are among the first large-scale vocal works composed to Danish texts. Scheibe showed a keen interest in the Danish language, and the cantatas were a result of a close collaboration with the young, talented poet Johannes Ewald (1743−1781) whom Scheibe also gave lessons guiding him in musical matters.

It was in 1766, in connection with the funeral of King Frederik V, that Scheibe and Ewald started their fruitful collaboration producing the funeral cantata to be performed at the official church service. The work was a great success and Scheibe therefore asked Ewald to write a new text which could replace the one in the funeral cantata. However, it turned out that only a few of the movements could be reused and they therefore produced a new work: the Passion Cantata (‘Our harp has become sorrow’) composed for Lent 1768 and performed by members of the Musical Society. The work became popular among the audience and was performed several times in the following decades.

The Passion Cantata is the first of Scheibe’s cantatas to be published in a scholarly edition. Scheibe’s autograph manuscript has been selected as the basis for the edition; however, a contemporary eighteenth-century transcript of the manuscript has also been consulted as it includes an extra movement, ‘Duetto & Coro’, which is not in Scheibe’s autograph but to which he merely refers; the movement has been included in the present edition as an appendix. Besides showing aspects of Scheibe’s notational practice, the autograph manuscript also reveals interesting details about the identities of the singers, for instance. The introduction to the edition places the cantata within an eighteenth-century context.
 


Scheibe: Passion CantataScheibe: Passion Cantata

Edited by Peter Hauge
Published by DCM 2012
Publ. no. DCM 011

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